Birthday Musings

birthday musingsAnother birthday has come and gone. Seems like that happens more and more frequently. It’s fitting, I think, that this particular birthday should come right at this particular juncture in my life. Right at the crossroads of my past and my future. Caught in the middle of who I am and who I will be. Straddling the fence that separates the familiar from the unknown. I’ve put in my time and paid my dues, yet somehow there is still a shadow of guilt and a specter of anxiety lurking in the dark corners of my mind. But there are other emotions crowding and pushing to the front of my mind so that I hardly notice the phantom twins.

I am both excited and slightly petrified when I consider the future. But isn’t that how all the best experiences make us feel? Anything worth doing is going to call out a strong emotional response. Whenever I am doing or contemplating doing something important, I get both butterflies and a nauseated feeling. And that’s how this crossroads is making me feel. I’m learning that that’s how life goes. Change is inevitable, as are the emotions that accompany it. The only thing we control is which emotions are dominant. I’ve pushed the negative ones to the back and allowed the positives to take center stage, but it could very easily have gone the other way. Of course, since this change is of my own making, it was easier than it could have been. Some days, it’s still a struggle.

It’s the waiting that’s starting to get under my skin now. I’ve never been very good at waiting for anything and this seems particularly hard. Probably because it is such a big deal. My current stress levels are considerably higher than they probably should be. As it happens, there are a couple other big things happening in my life right now and it looks like they are all on a collision trajectory. My whole life is going to explode with big things happening in the very near future – probably all in the same week. And for now, all I can do is watch. And try not to get too stressed out. So far, I am keeping things in control. I pray I can manage that for just a few more weeks.

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Clive Cussler

Clive CusslerAnother of my most favorite authors, Clive Cussler is one of the hottest fiction writers today. He consistently and frequently makes the bestseller list, the quality of his books matched only by their quantity. I buy every Clive Cussler book published, no questions asked. Every single one is good enough to read and reread. Some I like better than others of course, but they all are good. That’s pretty impressive. I like the Fargo Adventures, the Isaac Bell Detective Series, and the Oregon Files the best of all.

All of Cussler’s books share a few common features – plenty of action, a connection between the story and some event in history, a protagonist who is flawed yet heroic, a comedic sidekick, and a drop-dead gorgeous heroine. It’s a classic story-writing formula – injected with a fresh, exciting plot each time, it’s a surefire winner.

The Fargo Adventures is a series of stories about husband and wife team Sam and Remi Fargo, archaeologists and philanthropists. Treasure-hunters, to use a more everyday term. Their adventures take them all around the world, finding rare treasures, solving ancient mysteries, and usually having one action-packed adventure after another. It’s non-stop adventure at its finest; I love every minute of it.

Clive Cussler’s only historical fiction series, the Isaac Bell Mysteries are detective stories that rank with the very best. In the early twentieth century, Isaac Bell is a tall, lean detective working for the Van Dorn Detective Agency. No thief, killer, or even criminal mastermind can long escape justice with Isaac Bell on their tail. The intricacy of Cussler’s plots is mind-boggling; it’s often not till near the very end that I know who the villain is or what’s going on. Marion Morgan, Bell’s romantic interest, plays a prominent role in both his cases and the series.

The Oregon Files differ from his other novels in that they are not about the adventures of a few individuals. They are, essentially, the chronicles of a ship. The Oregon appears to be a worn-out rusty derelict, but this is only a façade to conceal the state-of-art equipment and weaponry she is carrying. Housing a band of mercenaries with ties to the US government, the “Corporation,” as they style themselves, can go where the arm of the law cannot. Led by their dashing, one-legged leader, Juan Cabrillo, they consistently get in and out of dangerous situations around the globe.

And lastly, a few words about the Dirk Pitt Adventures and the NUMA Files, Clive Cussler’s first 2 series. Dirk Pitt, ex-Air Force officer, now works for NUMA, the underwater counterpart to NASA. The NUMA Files relates the adventures of Kurt Austin, head of the NUMA Special Assignments Team. In these roles, both men and their associates find themselves in adventures both under and on top of the waves, and occasionally on land as well. Both storylines are awesome, but get me just a half-notch less excited than his other three. I still devour – and love – every single one.

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True Calling – How I Found Mine

Last week I talked about finally admitting to my true calling. Today I’d like to talk about the process that got me to that point. It was a long, slow, at times painful process and I didn’t understand what was happening. In hindsight, I can now see how everything that happened has led me to this point in my life. And I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

The seed of my passion for writing was planted before I could even read. I learned to love books from an early age due to my Mama reading great books to me – both picture books and otherwise. Playing pretend as a kid caused that seed to germinate. It blossomed when I read my first “real” book. As in, a book with chapters and no pictures. I even remember what that book was – a biography of Helen Keller. Her story, and the way Mama was proud of seven-year-old me, sparked a fire inside that has never gone out. The gift of my first journal for my 8th birthday sealed the deal.

The path of my true calling took a dark, but necessary, turn during my early teen years. I was never the typical overtly rebellious teenager. Instead I poured the frustration and angst of those years into words on paper. I still turn to writing when I am frustrated or upset. As I came out of that phase, my writing became something more. Lighter and more optimistic, but also more real and honest. I had found my voice. I also began to delve more into writing fiction. Looking back, some of those early efforts were cringe-worthy, but I am slowly improving. I still have not created a story that is fit to publish yet. Someday perhaps.

In the meantime, writing is both my lifeline and my outlet. It is the one thing I turn to in every situation. When I’m sad or joyful, depressed or content, angry or excited, when I feel broken inside and when I am ready to take on the world. Writing is always there for me and it is always my first reaction. That is how I know that it is my true calling. And that is how I know that I will never stop writing.true calling

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Career Choices, Career Changes

Some people seem to have it all figured out. From a young age, they know exactly who and what they are going to be and by golly that’s what they do. I am jealous of those people. By the time I graduated high school, I had emphatically decided on a career 20 different times, no two choices alike. When I was five, I wanted to be a firefighter. Then a police officer. At six I was gonna run an orphanage when I grew up. Seven-year-old me was a future politician. And so on. Lawyer, bodyguard, journalist, truck driver, cowgirl made more than one appearance, restaurateur, a secret agent phase of course, DJ – and the list goes on. I never could settle on just one.

I think there are two reasons for that. The first is equal parts personality and upbringing. My dad made no fewer than 8 career changes just in my memory span. I always thought that was normal, but I guess most people stick with the same one forever. I honestly don’t know if I could do that. There is something to be said for security, I suppose. But is security worth sacrificing adventure? Should I trade an unpredictable life of freedom for safe drudgery? Yes, I know I’m oversimplifying. But do I really wanna tie myself down – even to something I love – and potentially miss the next great opportunity? I want to grab life by the tail and see where it takes me.

The other reason for my inability to pick a single career is denial. All those years and all those varied careers I said I wanted, I never once admitted what I really wanted. Even to myself. Other than as a pipe dream. An “if-a-genie-gave-me-three-wishes” kinda dream. I have finally admitted to myself and to others what I truly want to be more than anything else in the world. I want to be a writer. Actually, I am a writer – I want to be a successful, published author. I believe that writing is my true calling. Some even say I’m good at it. Whether my work will be a success or not remains to be seen. Whether I can make a living off it also remains to be seen. But whether I make millions as a writer or a few bucks or nothing at all; whether I find a successful second career or work a string of jobs or quit working altogether; whatever else I may do, wherever my life may take me, one thing I know for absolute certain. I will never stop writing.writing career

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Introducing Tarzan of the Apes

tarzan of the apesTarzan of the Apes and Return of Tarzan, for all intents and purposes, are one book. A single narrative, the first part ends in a cliffhanger where the second novel begins and then wraps up the story. So this article is about both novels. At the beginning of the tale, we are introduced to newlyweds Lord and Lady Greystoke, who are en route to Africa. John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, has been appointed by her majesty to a post in one of the British Empire’s African colonies. They never reach their destination. Mutiny leaves them stranded on the west coast of Africa.

John does his best to protect and care for Alice, building a stout log cabin and foraging for food. All his care, however, cannot save her from the dangers of the jungle. Shortly after bringing a son into the world, she dies of a fever. Her husband soon follows her to the grave at the hands of an ape. The ape would have killed the infant in the cradle as well, but for the intervention of a young female ape whose own son has just died. She names him Tarzan and raises him as her own.

Remarkably, he survives to manhood. As he grows, so do his intellect and emotions. With little in common with his ape “family,” he eventually forsakes them for a life of solitude. While still a boy he had discovered the cabin where he was born. He did not know nor care who the 2 skeletons within those stout walls had formerly been. But the cabin and the curious things in it intrigued him. He quickly mastered the use of a hunting knife, but it took a little longer to discover the secret of the little black “bugs” covering the pages of the books and diary he also found. In time, however, he taught himself to read and write English, in spite of not speaking a word of it.

His life is forever changed by the arrival of another group of stranded castaways, also the victims of mutiny. Professor Porter, his daughter Jane, his assistant Mr. Philander, Jane’s maid Esmerelda, and William Cecil Clayton, young Lord Greystoke. Their arrival sets in motion a chain of events that will forever change both their lives and the jungle life of Tarzan. Both Tarzan of the Apes and Return of Tarzan are gripping and suspenseful; holding a reader captive until the tale is told.

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Music Genres for My Brother

music genresMy brother and I were talking the other day about music – our favorite singers and genres and more specifically, how to distinguish between genres. When our dad was my age, musical styles were both fewer and more distinct. Every artist stayed strictly in their lane. Today there seem to be more and more music genres with more and more overlap. For instance, most modern country songs resemble rock and roll as much as or more than traditional country. And Southern rock, while it has “rock” in its name, is about equal parts country and classic rock. And modern pop draws heavily on rap and hip-hop. This annoys my brother to no end – he is the type of personality that needs to know where each piece fits in the grand design. So, my big little brother, this one is for you.

If we disregard classical and instrumental pieces, music genres can be grouped into 5 broad categories. First, let’s talk about the easiest and most difficult category to define: Christian Music. Lyrically, these songs are all similar in that they deal with Christian ideas and themes. But musically, they range from old-fashioned hymns to pop tunes to rock and rap styles. So if you want to listen to Christian music, you then have to choose between a wide range of musical styles that fit underneath that umbrella.

Our next category is defined by an era and I call it Retro Music. This includes any type of music popular after the invention of recorded music that is no longer a big deal. There may still be artists producing these genres but they are not mainstream. Swing, big band, easy listening, boogie-woogie, jazz, ragtime, etc. Think of big-name singers from days gone by: Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, the Andrews Sisters, Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, and other famous singers of the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. Personally, I am not nearly as familiar with these great artists or music genres as I would like to be.

The third sector of musical styles is the very broadly-defined Pop Music. Subheadings under this category would include dance, electronic, and bubblegum pop. This is probably the easiest genre of all – any song that is popular and doesn’t fit anywhere else belongs here. Restrictions are loose, with no particular sound or style. Pop Music draws inspiration from whichever genre happens to currently be most popular.

Category number four is the one I listen to the least and which I have dubbed Urban Music. I suppose it’s my country-girl bias, but I ascribe the genres in this category to city-dwellers. It may not be an entirely accurate way of viewing music and a musician would probably cringe at my definition, but it helps me keep things straight in my mind. Hip-hop, rap, modern R&B, reggae, disco, heavy metal (particularly what’s termed thrash metal), and punk rock are some of the genres I list under the Urban heading. I don’t know much about this category, but unlike Retro Music, I have no desire to become better acquainted with the music of the Urban category.

As opposed to our previous genre group, our final entry tends to be the territory of country folks. I call it Americana Music: folk, Western, country, outlaw, bluegrass, Cajun and zydeco, blues, soul, Southern rock, and rock and roll. This is my musical world and my brother’s as well; the music we both love best is all included in these music genres. Each genre overlaps the next, making it difficult to ascribe most songs to any one heading. It’s not a stack of boxes, each one neatly holding its assigned artists and songs. It is a meandering pathway, each song a stepping stone to the next. And it is one gloriously beautiful journey.

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Mother’s Day 2017

mother's day 2017Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. And I want to dedicate this one to a very special woman who is often overlooked on this holiday. A woman who is neither my mother nor my grandmother or even a mother at all. This Mother’s Day, I pay tribute to my grandmother’s sister who, in essence, was my second grandmother. My incredible great-aunt, who was widowed young and never had children, loved her sister’s kids as if they were her own, including my dad. And when my dad had his own kids, she loved us every bit as much.

When I was very small, I actually didn’t realize that she wasn’t our grandma. She was and still is an outstanding surrogate. She is one of the many beautiful souls in my life who have shown me what it means to love without restrictions. She has proven that love doesn’t have to follow traditional guidelines to be real and true and pure. As a kid, I didn’t really understand the depth of what was happening. As I got older, I slowly began to realize that I have been blessed with more love than any one person deserves. In no small part due my awesome (great) aunt.

So on this Mother’s Day 2017, let’s all remember the women in our lives who are not mothers in the traditional sense of the word. Let’s salute those women who step up when they don’t have to. Let’s show them how much they mean to us. So today, Aunt V, I salute you. I salute your big smile and your bigger heart. I salute your warm hugs and your open home and all the amazingness that is you. Most of all, I salute your great love. I accept it with gratitude and I return it to you with all my heart. I love you more than I have words to say. Happy Mother’s Day.

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Jane Eyre 1983 Miniseries

jane eyre 1983One of literature’s great classic romances, Jane Eyre is beautifully captured on film in the 1983 BBC miniseries. Timothy Dalton (prior to his more famous role of James Bond) and Zelah Clark are exceptional together – one of the best Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester pairings I’ve seen. Zelah Clark, although she looks a good bit older than Jane’s 18, perfectly captures Jane’s spirit. Independence and intelligence, a sharp wit and a tongue to match, an iron will that borders on stubbornness, glimpses of a passionate nature, with just the right touch of whimsy and girlish innocence. Timothy Dalton’s Rochester, while still dark and brooding, is a bit more charming and funny than how he is traditionally portrayed on screen. Playing Edward Rochester is a balancing act; Dalton seems to have intuitively found the center of who Rochester is.

Despite a somewhat dated feel, this version of Jane Eyre is one of the best primarily because it stays true to the original material. The book is a long-standing classic for good reason, and the creators of this miniseries had sense enough not to deviate much from Charlotte Bronte’s masterpiece. All the points of the story remain the same, whole sections of dialogue are lifted straight from the book, and each actor completely inhabits his or her role. Perhaps the reason Jane Eyre has been translated into movies and TV series so many times is that, being primarily a dialogue-driven story, it lends itself well to the medium of film. Being a great story is another big reason of course.

The basic points of the story are well-known. Jane Eyre, a young orphan left to the care of an aunt, is cast off and sent to Lowood, a charity school. This venerable establishment is run by Mr. Brocklehurst, a grim, stern, disagreeable character who mistreats those unfortunate enough to come under his dangerously oppressive rule. After surviving 8 years at Lowood, our plucky heroine advertises, offering her services as a governess. Mrs. Fairfax, housekeeper at Thornfield, engages her to teach young Adele Varens, ward of Edward Rochester. Thus begins Jane’s life in the mysterious and sinister world of Thornfield. Jane and Rochester’s relationship slowly evolves from an uneasy trust, to respect and familiarity, to deep friendship, finally blossoming as true love. Torn apart by a cruel blow of fate, Jane leaves Thornfield, vowing never to return. How the story ends and what happens to Jane and Rochester – well, if you don’t already know, then I won’t give it away. Watch it for yourself; it will probably inspire you to read the book as well.

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Life Mission – Don’t Let Go

I’ve written before about my “bucket list” – a lengthy and detailed list of things I’d like to see, do, and own during my lifetime. But there are really only three things that I want more than anything in the world. Although I am learning to be content no matter what, this is all I truly need to be happy and satisfied with my life. All the other dreams and goals would be nice but not essential. This is my life mission.

  • To fall in love with the guy of my dreams. Wooed and won by my true love. Cherishing and being cherished in return. A passionate lifelong love affair. To build a life and a family with a man who I can trust implicitly and love infinitely.
  • To raise children of my own. Our own, I should say. Both biological and adopted kids. Little people who need to be loved and cared for. To share with them the gift of love that was given to me.
  • To have a successful career as a writer and author. One that allows me the financial freedom to quit my day job and offers the flexibility to spend time with my husband and kids. To feel as though my writing is making a difference in the world.

 

Everyone has a life mission. No two are the same. Each is as valid and valuable as the next. What is your life mission? Do you know yet? There was a time when I did not know mine. Even today I do not have the full picture, just the bare bones. I have a glimmer of a dream that I carry in a special place in my heart. A dream of a life that overflows with love and joy and passion. A life that is my own and is what I want it to be. I don’t know how I’ll get there, but I know where I want to be. Do you? Look deep in your heart – you will find your life mission there. And once you have it, don’t ever let go.life mission

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Broken Relationships

How do you know when a relationship is over? How do you know it’s time to let go? Is it a gradual drifting apart? Or a sudden painful break? Is it wrong to stop trying, to stop caring when you feel that a relationship has ended? Is there an objective way of measuring broken relationships?

I have had my fair share of relationships end. The first big ones were while I was still in grade school – both of my best friends moved away right around the same time. The first one tried for a while to remain pen pals, but the gaps between letters slowly grew larger and larger. Our last correspondence was probably about 12-15 years ago. My second best friend moved away without so much as a goodbye. I haven’t seen her since. I haven’t had a best friend since either come to think of it.

Right now I am smack in the middle of what feels like the end of yet another relationship. It never should have happened but one thing led to another until the scales reached a tipping point. Now I’m not sure we could patch things up if we wanted to. We each feel betrayed by the other and that’s a hard thing to work through.

The thing is, with the changes I am about to make in my life, it would be real easy to walk away from this person and forget the whole thing ever happened. That may even be what I should do. Leave it unmended and let Old Man Time do what he does best – heal all wounds. Perhaps without a fresh, daily reminder of what happened, we could both heal. Or maybe I need to patch it up and then walk away. Either way, I’m convinced we need some time apart.

Perhaps someday our relationship will be what it once was. Perhaps not. Right now, I’m not sure I care. There’s a vague whisper at the back of my mind that I should care. That I shouldn’t let this die because if I do, a part of me will die with it. another part of me wants to just toss it on the scrap heap of broken relationships and move on. How am I supposed to know what to do?

And what happens when the day comes that I have a deeper relationship than a friend or sibling? What happens when I have a fight with the man I’m trying to build a life with? How will I know whether to fight for us or to let it fall apart? You can’t build a life on broken relationships. And now I know what I must do. I have to fight for every single relationship in my life. I have to fight for my family, for my friends, and someday I will have to fight for my man. I have to stay in there and fight till the very end for the people I care about. I am not a quitter. I am a warrior.broken relationships

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Audrey and Don Wood – Great Children’s Literature

audrey and don woodWhen I was little, one of my most favorite things to do was read picture books with Mama. Any time she would sit down with me or us and read books was the highlight of my day. Several of our biggest favorites were written by the world’s most ingenious storytelling couple: Audrey and Don Wood. Their stories and the accompanying illustrations are unsurpassed in the world of picture books.

King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub, by Audrey and Don Wood, was a particular favorite. The tale of a fun-loving king who refuses to leave his bathtub will have you in stitches. Each member of his court tries a different approach to entice him out of the water; each fails spectacularly. The story is funny enough by itself, add the outrageous illustrations and this book is just over-the-top hilarious.

Another great classic Wood tale is that of The Big Hungry Bear. And the little mouse and the red ripe strawberry of course. I can still hear Mama’s voice reading those perfect lines. It was ever so exciting and thrilling – the suspense of whether the mouse would be able to safeguard his precious strawberry from the big hungry bear.

A newer addition to the Wood lineup, Ten Little Fish (by Audrey Wood and son Bruce) is not one that Mama read to me. She and I picked up one day when I was nearly grown at our local thrift store. I think we paid a quarter for it. I intend to read it to my own little ones someday. A rhyming under the sea counting book with an adorable story of family, I am sure this book will someday be as beloved by my children as the rest of the Wood collection.

Although I’ve never met a Wood book I didn’t adore, my special favorite will always be Silly Sally. “Silly audrey and don woodSally went to town, walking backwards upside down.” Silly to the point of zaniness, this is probably the most fun read-aloud book in the history of read-aloud books. A solo book from Audrey Wood, both words and pictures are perfection. At one time, I could recite the entire book from memory.

And there are many more Wood masterpieces that I have not the space to cover here. Some I’ve never even read myself. Someday though, I intend to raise my kids on a complete Audrey and Don Wood (and Bruce Wood too) collection. I hope every kid everywhere is introduced to the spectacular talent of the Wood family and I hope they continue to produce great children’s literature for many years to come.

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Falling in Love with Prince Charming

Something new is happening to me. Something I have never experienced before. It is amazing and wonderful and completely terrifying. Millions of people, if not more, have written about this phenomenon before me. I don’t know that I have anything new or particularly insightful to add to their words, but if you will indulge me with a few moments of your time, I have to tell someone. I believe I am falling in love.

Bizarre I know. And completely unexpected by everyone who knows me. I think some expected me to stay single forever. I’m not the type to need someone else to feel complete. Or to crave affection. Not openly at least. Tough as nails and fiercely independent – why would I need romance? That’s where everyone got it wrong. I may be both those things, but I still have a woman’s heart. Soft, tender, yearning to love and be loved in return.

Mama knew me. She knew that under my rough exterior was a princess searching for my prince charming. I am so grateful that she lived long enough to see me begin this process. Am I in love? Not yet. This is unfamiliar terrain; I am going slow. Will I fall in love? Maybe. I believe I could fall in love with this guy. But even if I do, does it mean he is my prince charming? Perhaps, perhaps not. He certainly is a prince charming.

I am lucky to have such a great guy for my possibly first, maybe last, love. He is everything I could have asked for in a boyfriend. Sweet and fun and intelligent and sexy and so much more. He treats me as his equal and as though I am special, as if I mean the world to him. He makes me feel like his Cinderella and if he isn’t careful, he is going to make me fall completely, hopelessly, head-over-heels in love with him.falling in love

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The Scarlet Pimpernel

scarlet pimpernel“Sport, Madame la Comtesse, sport,” asserted Lord Antony, with his jovial, loud and pleasant voice; “we are a nation of sportsmen, you know, and just now it is the fashion to pull the hare from between the teeth of the hound.” – The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy

So, casually and almost flippantly, does Lord Antony, a member of the Scarlet Pimpernel’s league, explain their motives for doing what they do. I have to say that I have never encountered a more superbly-written book than Baroness Emmuska Orczy’s classic The Scarlet Pimpernel. Every sentence is phrased so exquisitely; she is truly a master craftswoman.  And each line draws you deeper into the beautiful yet sinister world of the Scarlet Pimpernel and his daring band.

In a nutshell, this is the story of a fictional group of English gentlemen who pull French aristocratic hares from between the teeth of French revolutionary hounds. Led by their enigmatic leader, whose nom de guerre is taken from a humble flower common along English roadsides, they risk everything to save a few lives from certain death. Every time a cursed aristo is rescued from the insatiable bloodlust of the guillotine, a scrap of paper with the signature image of a red flower finds its way into the pocket of a French official. Our hero finds a worthy antagonist in the form of Monsieur Chauvelin, a high-ranking official in the revolutionary government.

Our hero, the daring Scarlet Pimpernel, and his band of devil-may-care companions disguise their identities by playing the role of foppish aristocratic dandies. Caring only for fashion and the gaiety of court life, their ruse works so well that no one, not even the Pimpernel’s own wife, suspect their true natures. This, I think, was the most difficult aspect of their charade for Sir Percy – to allow himself to be seen as a fool even by his wife. The wife he loved dearly and was willing to die for – to know that she despised him must have been a bitter pill to swallow. And yet, for the sake of saving a few strangers from the guillotine, he was willing to endure even that. That, my friends, is true untarnished heroism and honor.

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Real Steel, Heartwarming

Heartwarming. Not what you’d expect from a futuristic story about robot boxing. But that is exactly how I’d describe Real Steel. In the not-too-distant future, human boxers have been replaced by robotic counterparts. Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) is a former boxer who now promotes robot fights. Plagued by bad luck, he’s about ready to chuck it all when his “luck” changes. This good luck comes in the form of a son (Dakota Goyo) he hasn’t seen in years. When his ex-wife dies in a car accident, custody of their son Max falls to him. Charlie offers to relinquish his claim on the boy in exchange for a payout from his ex-sister-in-law and her wealthy husband. With visions of a new ’bot filling his head, he reluctantly agrees to take Max for one summer before turning him over to his aunt and uncle. He even tries to pawn Max off on a friend (Evangeline Lilly) while he takes his new robot on the fight circuit but Max is having none of it. Real stand-up guy, that Charlie.

Over the course of the summer, Max and Charlie fall out of one adventure and into the next. Charlie’s overconfidence and ego cost them their robot in its first fight; a harrowing night in the junkyard nearly kills them both; the antiquated ’bot Max stumbles across turns out to be something special; a showdown in the rough world of underground boxing shows Charlie that his son is made of tougher stuff than he realized; and slowly but surely, Charlie and Max develop the beginnings of a beautiful relationship. Max and his robot quickly go from little-known underdogs to the people’s champions but at the last minute, Charlie chucks the whole thing. Not for selfish reasons, as you would have expected at the beginning, but with the boy’s best interests at heart. This destroys their budding camaraderie and Max returns to his aunt and uncle with his faith in other people and Charlie in particular all but destroyed.

Charlie’s redemption, a rebuilt relationship, a touch of romance, and a dramatic final battle – this climax has it all. At its heart, this is an underdog story. Actually it’s a story of three underdogs: Charlie, a washed-up boxer; Atom, a discarded sparring ’bot; and Max, a scrawny, scrappy 11-year-old kid. Add in a redemption arc and the value of family and you would think this is your typical feel-good flick. At some level, I suppose that’s true. But on a deeper level, this is so much more than that. Real Steel is a moving, powerful story that deserves to be remembered for many years to come.real steel

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